Thursday, April 24, 2014


  • Shakespeare's immediate source for Hamlet was a lost play, probably by Thomas Kyd, known as the Ur-Hamlet.
  • At the end of the sixteenth century, when Hamlet was written, England was a country undergoing change, a country where the old assumptions no longer applied.
  • The Hamlet story dealt with a country in turmoil after a change of monarch, and the contrasts in Shakespeare's play between the Elder Hamlet and Claudius have obvious relevance to contemporary issues of the sort.
  • There were intellectual changes. The old medieval order was passing away. The new age of scientific thought and rational inquiry was beginning. Galileo and Descartes were on the horizon. 
  • Hamlet himself was an intellectual trying to make sense of the world--the confused end of one era and the painful birth of another.
  • Hamlet is one of Shakespeare's most complex and intriguing characters. He is a man of contradictions, who undergoes a remarkable change during the course of the play. Whatever his character was before the play begins, we understand that he changes when faced with the moral shock at the beginning of the play.
  • The central theme of Hamlet is REVENGE and Hamlet is the REVENGER.
  • 'To be or not to be...' is a fine instance of a Hamlet beset with doubts and faced with choices.
  • Hamlet chooses madness as a disguise--madness becomes a reaction to, and an escape from, the world around him, as it does for Ophelia, who is unable to cope with the results of the chain of circumstances in which she is wrapped.
  • Death is a major concern of Hamlet and it reverberates through the play. 
  • There is a great deal of imagery in Hamlet--cosmetics to cover up. An emblem both of the human attempt to avoid the approach of physical decay and the tendency to cover things up. Ulcers provide a striking picture of how the corruption within the Danish court is superficially concealed.
  • The imagery of the play is dominated by the idea of disease--decay, rotting, infection and corruption are common. Hamlet sees his country as a vast garden gone to seed.
  • Keywords in the play are mostly to do with disguise--Apparition, seems, seeming, assume, habits, put on, shape, play, act, show. 
  • Hamlet changes a great deal through the play. To demonstrate this, his language alters markedly, indicating his shifts of mood. He employs many puns, appropriate in a world where nothing is what it seems. He is fond of questions and bitter riddles.

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